HAMPSHIRE’S new first-team coach, Dale Benkenstein, has challenged his attack to believe they can bowl teams out at The Ageas Bowl, ahead of tomorrow’s LV County Championship opener against Worcestershire.
Benkenstein has targeted a better home record as key to winning promotion.
Hampshire managed only two wins at the Ageas Bowl last season and will be hoping to repeat last April’s success against Worcestershire over the next four days.
But they drew five of their other six home games and had to wait until their final match against Essex before they registered their next win, which was largely due to a ten-wicket haul for Matt Coles.
“Our challenge will be to find a way of winning matches at home,” admits Benkenstein. “There’s been a lot of talk about bowling sides out here, that’s a major concern and I think having Kyle Abbott arriving in a couple of weeks’ time will definitely help with that.
“But it’s also a mindset. You have to really believe and find a way of getting wickets. “It’s not about sticking to one game plan, you have to try and create things and that’s something we can try and improve on.”
Hampshire are hoping to have more life in their wickets this year, following last season’s frustrations.
But Benkenstein is wary of blaming the conditions.
“The way you play on those surfaces is more important than the surface itself,” he said. “Your best bowlers learn how to bowl on good wickets because Test wickets are generally pretty flat.
“So we don’t want to dwell on the wicket. We got taught a bit of a lesson on Wednesday when we bowled [and Middlesex made 377-5 declared] and everyone said ‘this is the Ageas Bowl’.
“But then we were 204 all out. If you bowl well on any surface there’s always something that causes batters problems. “You can get your mind to a pretty negative state where you just think it’s too flat. “But certain bowlers will always be able to get something out of any wicket.”
Hampshire have left Danny Briggs out of their 12-man squad for tomorrow’s opener so will field four frontline seamers, hardly a surprise given the appalling forecast for the next two days. Will Smith is set to make his Hampshire debut and Joe Gatting, a former Brighton & Hove Albion striker who made his Football League debut against Saints at St Mary’s eight years ago, has also been included in the squad after impressing in pre-season.
“Joe looks pretty special,” said Benkenstein. “Looking at his record he hasn’t really put the numbers together but he’s a late developer because of his football background.”
Worcestershire have included England’s Moeen Ali in their 12-man squad and 19-year-old batsman Tom Kohler-Cadmore is set for his first-class debut.
Hampshire (from): Adams, Carberry, Dawson, Vince, Smith, Ervine, Wheater, Coles, Balcombe, Brathwaite, Tomlinson, Gatting.
Worcestershire: Mitchell, Pardoe, Ali, Kohler-Cadmore, Kervezee, Whiteley, Cox, Andrew, Shantry, Morris, Choudhry & Russell.